Ignorant Crikey rewrites Australia-China history

Some very poor journalism from Bernard Keane at Crikey:

In all the coverage of the AUKUS announcement and the government’s continuing criticisms of China, one question has received too little attention: why has Australia gone from the Tony Abbott Coalition hosting Xi Jinping in the Parliament in 2014 to celebrate a trade deal to now pursuing a new Cold War with China?

It’s a difficult question not merely for the Coalition, which feted Xi and denounced any criticism of the trade deal as racist, but for its supporters at News Corp, which lauded the deal as a major historical event and the entry of Australia into a close “orbit” of China — rather like AUKUS has now been declared a key moment in Australian history.

The primary response from China hawks is that Xi somehow began unmasking himself after 2014 — though not so quickly that, in early 2017, the Turnbull government wasn’t seeking to ratify an extradition treaty.

But Xi is said to have dramatically ramped up his interference in Australia, to have escalated cyber attacks, to have become more aggressive in the South China Sea, and to have unleashed “wolf warrior” diplomats.

The problem with this narrative is that, even if correct, it was merely a change of degree, not kind, and certainly not some surprising revelation. Anyone who witnessed Chinese government-orchestrated attacks on protesters against the Beijing Games torch relay in 2008 couldn’t have been in any doubt as to the willingness of Beijing to interfere in Australia. And anyone who saw the eagerness of both sides of politics to receive donations from Chinese billionaires with connections to the Chinese Communist Party could have been in no doubt about the willingness of both to overlook that interference.

And China significantly increased in aggression in the South China Sea several years before Abbott’s trade deal and its program of militarisation in that area drew criticism from the United States in 2015. As for a ramping up of Chinese cyber-aggression — seriously? Journalists were able to accumulate lists of the greatest hits of Chinese hackers in 2010, the year before China was known to be behind the hacking of prime minister Julia Gillard’s email account and accessing cabinet material.

Certainly China became dramatically more aggressive in trade terms, binning the trade deal and slapping tariffs on Australian imports other than iron ore, but that was mostly in response to Australia’s (wholly justified) call for an investigation into the circumstances of the spread of the coronavirus, just as earlier criticism from China had been prompted by Australia’s (again, wholly justified, if clumsily implemented) foreign interference laws and the exclusion of Huawei from telecommunications infrastructure.

But nothing accounts for near-total reversal of Australian policy from near-fawning Sinophilia to a new Cold War, with Australia needing to embrace nuclear power to ward off Chinese aggression.

Who drove this reversal? Much of it has come from the most secretive and unaccountable area of the federal government, our intelligence and security agencies, which have escalated warnings about the threat of China publicly and via friendly journalists — and, purely coincidentially, enjoyed significant increases in funding from taxpayers as a consequence.

Much of it has been directed against the pro-Beijing influence of a sycophantic business community, who have no concerns about anything Beijing does provided they can keep making money, and their media mouthpieces like The Australian Financial Review. The security establishment has defeated the business establishment in influencing Australia’s attitude to China.

And much of the reversal has been driven by the domestic political needs of the Coalition and its main media ally, News Corp, which is why Labor was attacked as being Sinophobic a few years ago and is now portrayed as too soft on China.

But in the absence of a convincing rationale for such a comprehensive reversal, Australians — and other governments — are justified in wondering what the core driver of foreign policy under the Morrison government that has remained consistent when entirely opposite outcomes have resulted — or whether those outcomes are simply the result of the vicissitudes of an ongoing contest between different parts of the governing class for influence.

There has been one consistent theme of both Coalition and Labor foreign policy: a willing embrace of a role in the US military machine.

Australia has much to offer the US by way of its geography. We have long provided a southern hemisphere base for global surveillance and espionage operations, a welcoming port for the US navy and, increasingly, a base for US troops — an initiative of Labor under Gillard. Traditionally we have brought less in the way of manpower and hardware to US military adventurism — our contribution to Iraq was risible and we struggled to deliver even that — but under AUKUS we’ll eventually pay for a fleet of submarines effectively under US control and based, handily, in the region to be contested with China.

Australia’s future as a giant spy station/naval stop/permanent aircraft carrier/junior sheriff for the US military appears assured. But at what point will its economic interests reassert themselves, led by an influential business lobby, or will domestic political considerations prompt a re-embrace of China? Will Australia be feting Xi in 2025, complete with welcome op-eds about being pulled into China’s orbit?

Deary me. Where has Bernard been?

The history of the collapse of the relationship is very clear:

  • In 2011 China began its reform programs away from a commodity-centric growth model that crashed our terms of trade, as well as its push into militarisation of the South China Sea.
  • Australia ignored the rise of a tyrannical Xi and responded by seeking deeper economic integration in services like education and property.
  • But this resulted in huge waves of political corruption in everything that it touched.
  • The turning point was the Dastayari Affair in 2017 when an Aussie pollie sold his foreign policy views to a Chinese agent of influence and was sacked for it. The Turnbull Government responded with anti-foreign influence legislation. Repeated spy and corruption scandals followed and we banned Huawei.
  • Donald Trump was elected POTUS in the same year and finally woke the world to dodgy Chinese trade practices, as well as strategic competition.
  • China unleashed economic coercion policies upon Australia in 2019 as we cleaned house of Chinese corruption. Then it unleashed the pandemic and wolf warriors in 2020.
  • When none of that buckled Australia, China released its 14 demands to end democracy:
  • The result was a special session for Australia at the G7 and AUKUS.

This is straight cause and effect as an illberal empire progressively moved to take over a liberal commodity supplier in contradiction with everything that it stood for.

Hatred of Murdoch and the Coalition should not blind one to basic historical fact. Sometimes even they get something right, if only in self-interest or by accident.

Stop listening to Guy Rundle, your delusional, racist, communist stablemate.

Houses and Holes
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    • True, Xi does have a deadline. Smart move by them, it’s a very high probability the way things are going.
      draws on historic cases eg Japan was losing power knew they would likely loose any war with US but rolled the dice anyhow. For me it’s most likely scenario, Xi will lash out within the next decade while China has a good chance of winning Taiwan back & Xi’s place in history is assured even if it means China becoming a pariah & being sanctioned massively. (I’m assuming if Evergrande busts Chinese property this date comes forward at least 5yrs)

  1. Or the intelligence services might have actual gotten proof of some things that China did or have plans for, hence the change
    (Not that I think there has been a sudden change)

  2. FDA Banned Boosters

    All of China’s grievances are fairly reasonable.

    Unless China start going before the UN making up stories about WMDs in order to destroy a country and kill untold numbers I’m not too worried about China’s jawboning.

    In the time that Australia has involved itself in war throughout the world China has had a few border skirmishes. China have a lot of restraint while Australia evidently has none.

    • “China have a lot of restraint.”

      And that phrase right there demonstrates why China will always be a second rate country full of second rate people. You lot can’t even train your foreign interference stooges to produce grammatically correct sentences in the language of the people you’re trying to fool.

      You’re a laughable bunch of grifters and thieves. Nobody likes you, and your silly country is soon going to collapse back into famine, civil war and squalor, just like it always does.

      China always has been and always will be a sh1thole, full of people who want to live elsewhere.

    • Exactly, same with North Korea. Not once have they waged war on the other side of the world. They’re practically a nation of saints!
      That navy China have relatively recently picked up the pace building is just going to be used for patrolling it’s domestic lakes and are nothing more than research vessels if anything. Everyone should just stop looking in their direction, literally nothing is going on, whatsoever.

      • Even StevenMEMBER

        Well said, Simon. Would love to know how many astroturfers on this thread are paid or just doing it pro-bono for the motherland because they are brainwashed.

  3. Ronin8317MEMBER

    Once Xi declared himself ’emperor for life’, China’s fate is sealed. It is a lot easier for the Chinese leadership to be rational on Taiwan when “unification” is always a successor’s problem.

  4. All of those points are worthy of an unofficial grey war and for preparations for hot battles we can win closer to or on our shores (per Hugh White) not for subs that are for fighting Chinese subs outside their bases in the South China Sea. Why don’t you stop banging your war drum for a few seconds and discuss the strategy you are championing and the options and risks for war fighting that will be lost on your chosen strategy. Not to mention the loss of trade and the pretext for invasion it creates if the opportunity arises. There are layers and layers of risks here. Instead from you we get this repeated primal scream. And FYI – I am not a commie or corp stooge or any other quick putdown. You need to fill out your arguments a whole lot more.

      • Mark, welcome to international relations. That is the nature of the beast when you are a middle power caught between a great power in decline and one on the rise. It is that Robert is trying to unpack and expecting it to be neat is unrealistic. To ensure our own interests are not lost in a tussle between powers, there are other options that out of necessity, seem less clear.

        While I have concerns about China and its increasing assertiveness as well, I see little value in being a vassal state for the US. There is more to preparing this country for the future than making us a puppet for a western government that is starting to show obvious signs of a state in decline. Entropy and endemic corruption are at work there and binding ourselves (as opposed to aligning) so completely to a country that may well elect another lunatic is very risky. In short, as troubling as the state-based elites of the CCP are, I am also worried about the elites in our own democracies as they have been eroding the integrity of our system of elected government for decades. The very same elites that told us helping China to become “developed” was good.

        A real strategy needs to consider more than one player and their perceived intentions at this time. It needs to consider all the players and the risks of certain actions in a future with many possibilities. It also needs to consider how one might influence outcomes for its own benefit. The problems we are starting to see with France, the EU and near neighbours because of the AUKUS deal are a reflection of these complexities and how our actions, however well intentioned on the surface, may not produce the outcomes anticipated.

        SM is not a real player in this respect and I have very reasonable belief some of our troubles with China stem from Trump pushing SM out in front in the past and getting him to loudly support his anti-China push. Were I more confident that such actions were driven out of a genuine concern for our freedoms, I might feel a little (and I mean a little) more comfortable. Alas I feel we are being led by those too afraid to find strength in greater independence. The fact the US has been quite happy to sell China commodities it no longer wishes to buy from Australia only reinforces this belief.

        • Yes, the risk of civil war in the US in coming years is now a thing. They are a troubled people.
          If China is at risk of internal troubles then Aust lying low and not allowing itself to be painted as an enemy to be unified against would make more sense. We could have done that. The list of 14 demands are not a declaration of a hot war. Those demands are not set in stone. Their meaning internally to China needs to be discussed rather than assumed. The loss of face from Morrison’s big mouth is also a factor there.
          The correspondence of white Aust – Asians and white Afrikaans Sth Africa-Bantu pre 1994 is also up for discussion. There we see a stubborn and aggressive white population blindsided and outmaneuvered by events.
          Your sentence above ‘Alas I feel we are being led by those too afraid to find strength in greater independence’ can go to this. It is independence from & modification of our own traditions also that is needed. The Sth Africans didnt change their Dutch colonialists attitude of superiority. Just like SM. Thinks Christianity and the history of white industrial power is superior. Newsflash: Firstly, Christianity is polluted by the psyops of the Roman empire (Caesar’s messiah, Joseph Atwill. This book finally freed me from christianity and tipped me back to rationality and empiricism). Asian religions are light years ahead in terms of legitimacy as religions. They are empirical. Leaps of faith not required. I’ve practised both forms extensively (Zen buddhism & Advaita vedanta, and happy clappy -& anglican- christianity – cos my brother is one. And christianity of course has elements of joy however there are truckloads to sift out and I could only do that cos I started with the asian practices). Secondly, the chinese have learnt about industrial power. There is no inherent advantage we have there. We are not bound for victory no matter what comes. These tropes are no longer valid thus are fragile and their breaking will bind us to defeat.

          • ”There we see a stubborn and aggressive white population blindsided and outmaneuvered by events.”
            Unfortunately, that white population (of which I am one), does not always see that it has been an expansionist aggressor for much of the last 500 years. Many don’t understand there is a racial memory created by this history which can make entities like AUKUS the target of suspicion and political opportunism. There are warning signs of this already so it will be really important to turn our thoughts to being a good neighbor and a partner of choice for those in our region.

            ”Their meaning internally to China needs to be discussed rather than assumed. The loss of face from Morrison’s big mouth is also a factor there.”
            Couldn’t agree more. I have posted a link recently on loss of face (among others) for this very reason.

          • drsmithy, I used buddhist meditation to access feelings of peace & joy and clarity of insight that come with being able to quiet the mind. As religion of course it too like all else in human life gets ossified into priestly systems that miss the point, ending up idling into dusty irrelevance or skidding into war fighting (zen priests allowed themselves to cheer the Japanese participation in Manchuria and in WW2). Hence the trip into advaita vedanta, the Indian system of no system really. In the sense it relies on gurus to come along and kick start the thing. In my case this was Ramana Maharshi.

          • You do seem to live by these words:
            “It is independence from & modification of our own traditions also that is needed. “

            You are an interesting chap Roberto with a keen mind. Thanks for sharing.

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